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Research Finds US Aquifers Have 180 Times More Uranium Than Safe Levels

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California Cuts off Water to Town of 15,000 - Sputnik International
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Aquifers used for agriculture and drinking water in California and the Midwest of the United States contain uranium and nitrate levels up 180 times recommended levels, according to a study in the peer reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The study conducted by two researchers at the University of Nebraska found nitrate from fertilizers and animal waste are triggering secondary reactions in the soil that make naturally occurring uranium soluble in groundwater.

"It needs to be recognized that uranium is a widespread contaminant," Karrie Weber, a researcher at the University of Nebraska said in a statement following the findings. "And we are creating this problem by producing a primary contaminant that leads to a secondary one."

The High Plains aquifer, the largest in the United States, and the Central Valley aquifer in California, which combined provide water for one-sixth of US agricultural output by value, have 89 times and 180 times the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) threshold levels of uranium, respectively.

The high amounts of uranium are triggered by nitrate levels from 34 to 189 higher than EPA threshold levels, the research found.

"When you start thinking about how much water is drawn from these aquifers, it's substantial relative to anywhere else in the world," Weber said. "These two aquifers are economically important — they play a significant role in feeding the nation — but they're also important for health."

The research findings are significant as intaking high-levels of uranium has been linked to a number of diseases as food crops accumulate uranium during irrigation.

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